Security management crucial as airfreight levels rise

The new generation of gigantic airport developments in the Middle East, specifically in the UAE, will provide a huge challenge to aviation security in the region, according to a number of security experts speaking at the Airport Show in Dubai last month.
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The new generation of gigantic airport developments in the Middle East, specifically in the UAE, will provide a huge challenge to aviation security in the region, according to a number of security experts speaking at the Airport Show in Dubai last month.

These views have been supported by the IATA director general, Giovanni Bisignani, who decried the poor state of global airline security at the body's AGM in Istanbul, Turkey, on 2 June.

With Abu Dhabi International Airport implementing a US$6.8 billion investment plan, and with Dubai's second airport, Dubai World Central, already starting to take shape, the exponential increases in both freight and passenger movements are posing concerns for the biggest industry players.

In addition, the new terminal at the existing Dubai International Airport, not to mention the enlargement of facilities in Sharjah, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and the construction of new international terminals at Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah, mean that a number of hazards arising from the lack of necessary airspace may well become apparent in the years to come.

However, it is not just the number of aircraft movements that is causing concern. Many of the new facilities are entire 'airport cities', which, it is feared, have the ability to create even further security confusion.

"Previously, you only had to consider the airside and the aircraft operations, but now you have a whole airport city to secure," explained Ahmed Al Haddabi, vice president of safety programme and airports security for Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC). "As airports expand rapidly they require faster aircraft turnaround to cope with higher passenger numbers and increased air cargo traffic. This combines to create larger targets for interference, and as a result poses greater security risks."

To combat the risk of unwanted interventions, Al Haddabi indicated that a national aviation security master plan is being put in place in the UAE, which will look to determine potential threats and establish secure aviation regulations in the country.

"We mustn't just base our assessments of risk factors, whether from terrorist threats or air safety, on the basis of past events," warned John Pottinger, vice president of aviation safety for ESR Technology, who was also speaking at the Airport Show. "We must ponder the possibilities and implications of the kind of safety and security issues that are not generally forecast but the aviation industry may well face in the next decade."

Freight movements have been earmarked as a particular area of concern. "There are literally dozens of airports worldwide without adequate security and where the wrong people can gain access to aircraft," added Pottinger.

From a global perspective, the IATA CEO echoed the feelings of regional observers. "Unlike safety, security is an uncoordinated mess," Bisignani remarked. "Since 2001, airlines and their customers have paid over $30 billion for security measures. For this we get more frustration than value. Passengers are suffering because they face a maze of duplication, bureaucracy and hassle."

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